The 2021 Cadillac Escalade will not be available in China via official channels.
The possibility of the Escalade, along with other GM full-size SUVs, being sold in China was raised by GM Executive Vice President and President of GM China, Julian Blissett, during a press conference at the 2020 China International Import Expo (CIIE). “We are studying various market plans for these models, including online sales, leasing and others,” the executive said at the time, though he stopped short of revealing full details or indicating a release schedule. It now seems that studying market plans is as far as the idea got.
“We used the CIIE event last year to promote GM’s capability in building a variety of products for diversified demand in the market,” Cadillac China spokesperson, David Ni, told GM Authority in a statement. “Currently there is no plan to import the Escalade to China. The Cadillac products we sell in China are all localized.”
The Cadillac products Mr. Ni is referring to are the Cadillac XT4, Cadillac XT5 and Cadillac XT6 crossovers, along with the Cadillac CT4, Cadillac CT5 and Cadillac CT6 luxury sedans (the latter was discontinued in North America but still popular in China). In other words, every vehicle (plus the CT6) the GM luxury brand sells in the U.S. with the exception of the Cadillac Escalade. All of them are built at the Cadillac Jinqiao plant in Pundong, Shanghai. The factory was opened on January 21st 2016, and also produces some Buick models for the local market.
Crucially, the Cadillac Escalade is only built at the GM Arlington plant in Texas. This is very much a factor in GM’s decision to not offer the Escalade in China, since the Asian country prefers cars sold within its borders to be built there too, either by local or by joint-venture companies. Vehicles that are not built locally in the country but imported from elsewhere are subject to a very hefty import tariff. As we write this, not a single GM China plant has the ability to build vehicles on body-on-frame GM vehicles, such as the Escalade, along with its various stable mates based on the GM T1 platform.
Selling the Escalade in China would have made good business sense because the country’s wealthier citizens are increasingly showing an interest in buying large utilities and luxury vehicles in general. China is also the only country in the world outside of North America to have expressways and urban highways compatible with the Super Cruise semi-autonomous driver assistance system, which is one of the Escalade’s several highlight features.
It’s possible that the fifth-generation Escalade will in fact be seen on these and other Chinese roads, even if GM China has nothing to do with it officially. Chinese Cadillac dealers have imported previous generations of the vehicle directly from the U.S. in response to customer demand, and may do the same with the current model.
This post was created in collaboration with our sister publication, Cadillac Society.